Banking Intern Death: A Tragedy a Long Time Coming
Since the tragic death of Bank of America intern, 21 year old Moritz Erhardt, many have questioned banking’s culture of long hours. After allegedly working 72 hours straight, Erhardt was found dead in his London apartment, likely due to a deadly combination of lack of sleep and an existing epilepsy condition.
The workaholic culture of banks has led to a fierce debate on overwork both for interns and in organizations as a whole. Whether or not there is blame to be cast over Erhardt’s death, the health risks associated with overtime and overwork have been known for years.
A 2010 study by the European Heart Journal showed that people who worked three to four hours extra were at a 1.56 fold increased risk of coronary heart disease. CHD occurs when plaque narrows the arteries in the heart, which can lead to a heart attack. The reasons behind this remain unclear, although one possibility is that frequent and extended periods of stress adversely affect the metabolic rate. Interestingly, the same overtime workers who had increased chances of CHD had lower traditional risk factors, as they did not drink excessively or have diabetes.
Workaholics and those who work large amounts of overtime are known to have a lower state of mental well-being, as measured by self-reported depression scores. In another British study, people who work 11 or more hours a day have double the odds of becoming depressed compared to those who work non-overtime hours. According to the study, “it is important to recognize that working excessive hours is also associated with an increased risk of major depression.”
In a 13 yearlong study, working overtime was associated with a 61% higher injury hazard rate compared to jobs without overtime. The results show that job schedules with long hours were not more risky because the people working spent more time at risk, as in the study the injury rate increased with the number of hours per day.
These studies confirm that work-life balance pays a vital role in physical wellbeing. It is unfortunate that the tragic death of a 21 year old has forced the working world to consider what doctors have already known for years; that overtime and overwork have harmful impacts on both the mind and body.